Presence of a rare pair of piping plovers is a sign of a “healthy ecosystem”

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Woodland Beach’s healthy ecosystem ‘attracts quality wildlife to the area,’ says Birds Canada’s Endangered Species Program Coordinator

Straight from Birds Canada, Tiny’s board heard that bird is the word.

Nesting on the shores of Woodland Beach for the fourth year in a row, a pair of piping plovers have made an impact and mobilized conservation efforts to help produce a healthy brood and increase their population.

Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) are a small shorebirdhave an orange stubby beak with a black tip, bright orange legs, and are mostly the color of dry sand except for a black band on the chest and above the forehead in adults.

They were designated endangered in 2001, and have been protected by the federal government under the Species at Risk Act since 2003, and provincially since 2008 under the Endangered Species Act; migratory birds are protected wherever they nest in Canada.

Andrea Gress, Ontario Piping Plover Program Coordinator with Birds Canada/Oiseaux Canada, provided an update to Tiny’s board on the recently integrated pair.

“The current couple you laid their first egg on Friday of last week (May 13),” Gress explained. “They lay an egg every other day until they have a clutch of four eggs, so they should have a full clutch by the end of this week. And then they will incubate those eggs for about 27 days; so we can expect an outbreak in about a month.

“These birds are territorial, so the male nesting there this year is the same male that has been nesting in Tiny Township since 2019. He loves your beach. It’s pretty cool,” she added.

According to Gress, newborns are vulnerable due to their size (similar to a golf ball) and their inability to fly during their first month.

tips for help protect the piping plover include: walking on wet sand at the water’s edge near reported breeding areas; keep pets on a leash; remove litter from beaches that would attract predators; leaving beach debris such as driftwood, shells and seaweed undisturbed and keeping vehicles off the beaches or dunes.

“They’re an umbrella species,” Gress explained, “so when you have a pair of piping plovers nesting on your beach, that’s an indication that you have a healthy ecosystem; so things like dunes and vegetation on the dunes provide flood prevention, erosion control… all sorts of good things. And of course, that means you’re also attracting some quality wildlife to the area.

Gress told Tiny’s council that in the Great Lakes, including Michigan’s predominant nesting site, 74 pairs were part of the population last year. However, across Ontario, only four pairs nested last year. Since this year, only three pairs have been identified in the province, to which Gress pointed to their importance in Woodland Beach.

“We have no enforcement capability, so the work we do is covered by federal permits, but we are not able to enforce anything. The federal permits come from Environment and Climate Change Canada, which allows us to approach the nests, put up the fences, and do whatever else we do,” Gress said.

Director of Public Works Tim Leitch expressed his support for the returning pair.

“This is an endangered species that we take very seriously here in Tiny Township because we are very environmentally conscious,” Leitch said. “And we’re very happy to have our visitors, and also very happy to make sure we’re keeping them safe as we continue our efforts to try and stabilize the piping plover population.”

Leitch noted that the Director of Public Works Engineering, Jean-François Robitaille, would be the best contact for residents wishing to reach township staff or Birds Canada, adding that “he is an ornithologist himself, and that interests him very much”.

Gress recently asked area residents to help support piping plovers in the Tiny Township and Wasaga Beach areas.

Board meeting records can be viewed on the Tiny Township YouTube channel.

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